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Illustration by Ione Wang

Sometimes the best artwork isn't hung on the gallery wall. If you aren't in the mood for entrance fees, crowded rooms and awful museum cafe coffee, check out one of these alternative art exhibits for an unusual experience. From dirt to mosaics to troll dolls, prepare yourself for something you've never seen—or expected—before.


The Mosaic House
108 Wyckoff St.
Every inch of the outside of this townhouse is adorned with bric-a-brac: Wire, glass, faux gems, plastic bugs, and ceramic tiles all jostle for attention on a run-of-the-mill street in Cobble Hill. The ongoing project is the culmination of over a decade's work by artist and townhouse resident Susan Gardner, who says her work began in earnest after Sept. 11, 2001. The mosaic consists both of Gardner's personal collection and of donations left on her doorstep.

The New York Earth Room
141 Wooster St.
Artist Walter De Maria had an idea: He was going to take an expensive, second-story, 3,600-square-foot SoHo loft and fill it with dirt. This was in 1977. Thirty-six years later, it's still there. The Dia Art Foundation, located both in the city and upstate, helps support the installation, which is watered and raked by longtime caretaker Bill Dilworth (a character in his own right).

The Troll Museum
122-124 Orchard St., #19
Curated by the self-proclaimed Saint Reverend Jen Miller, a Lower East Side performance artist, the Troll Museum's collection contains literally hundreds of the throwback dolls. The Reverend Jen emphasizes the importance of each doll having a story, and thanks to this, she says, the official tour can sometimes take more than six hours. Viewings are on a by-appointment basis, set up through phone or email. Call (212) 560-7235 or write to  |  @charshankredemp

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